If you read through Part One, which was a list of epic proportions, you already have a long list of 2022 feature films I’d recommend — for the challenges, for the surprises, for the imagination, for the wisdom.

But wait — there’s more!

Those were the “Honorable Mentions.” These?

The fifteen films on this — the “Top-Ten-Worthy Runners-Up List” — all belong in my Top Ten List for the year,
and I cannot believe I’m not including them on that list.

If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that any one of these might suddenly be bumped up into the Top Ten next time I see it, because all of these gave me so much to discover, enjoy, and ponder — and a sense that there’s so much more to discover, enjoy, and ponder next time that I never realized the first time. And yes, I will be watching all of these again.

If you have thoughts about any of them, or if you want to link to your own reviews, post them in the Comments! I want to learn more. I want to be persuaded.

As I wrote this post, I was ranking them in order of how eager I am to see them again. But eventually I gave up. If my Top Ten had never been released, I’d have looked at these and said “What an extraordinary year!” anyway.

For what it’s worth: Subscribers to my new online Substack newsletter Give Me Some Light received this list in its entirety a few weeks ago. If you want to get posts like this one early, subscribe!


Some of these films (The Worst Person in the World and Petit Maman, for example) played in festivals and in NY/LA awards-qualifying runs in 2021. But I’m counting them as 2022 releases because that’s when they came off of the festival circuit and gained a wide release — either in theaters or streaming — so that I, in the cinema-savvy city of Seattle, could access them without getting them on a plane. I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of American moviegoers couldn’t have seen them before 2022, and thus they became a part of the common cinephile conversation in 2022. There. That’s how I rationalize my standards on a subject that is always maddeningly subjective.

Writer and director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “Sang-hyeon is the owner of a launderette and a volunteer at the nearby church, where his friend Dong-soo works. The two run an illegal business together: Sang-hyeon occasionally steals babies from the church’s baby box with the help of Dong-soo, who deletes the church’s CCTV footage that shows a baby was left there, and they sell them on the adoption black market. But when a young mother, So-young, comes back after having abandoned her baby, she discovers them and decides to go with them on a road-trip to interview the baby’s potential infertile parents. Meanwhile, two detectives, Soo-jin and Detective Lee, are on their trail.”

From my Letterboxd notes:

I went to see Broker reluctantly tonight.

I was feeling beaten down by hardships, and betrayed by those who speak of grace and love when they’re at a microphone but then, behind closed doors, contrive to deny such things to those who need them.

And so, the prospect of dedicating an evening to a movie that puts words like “COMPASSION” and “TENDER” in the trailer in all caps… well, it felt like it might just add insult to injury. Fantasies with happy endings can really sour my spirit if the world is making such things seem impossible.

Shouldn’t I know better by now? Hirozaku Kore-eda’s Shoplifters showed up at the very end of 2018, and I approached that one warily as well. It overcame my cynicism and delighted and moved me so much it catapulted into my top 10 for that year. But no, I still haven’t learned my lesson. I’m still braced to suffer a movie that feels manipulative or superficial in its comforts. I’m not in the mood for art that contrives hopefulness out of wishful thinking.

But in Broker, as in Shoplifters, the world is the problem — not Kore-eda’s hopefulness. I think his strength comes from the fact that he knows that the world is in dire straits, and he portrays that with honesty born of experience. (This is the guy who made the harrowing Nobody Knows, after all.) But in his recent storytelling, he’s begun to remind me a little of Miyazaki: Where others tend to invest their talents in spectacular visions of trouble and violence, he gives his all to discover poignantly human moments of goodness, gentleness, generosity, insight, and decency. And his gift is that he not only finds them, but he draws performances from actors that make those moments ring true.

And, as a result, Broker, like Shoplifters, is good medicine for weary hearts, and, yes, one of my favorite films of 2022, which has been an outstanding year in cinema.- – -Song Kang Ho is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. He’s pure joy here. And IU (Lee Ji-eun) is positively radiant.

Writer and director: Jordan Peele

Universal Pictures Synopsis (via IMDB): “After random objects falling from the sky result in the death of their father, ranch-owning siblings OJ and Emerald Haywood attempt to capture video evidence of an unidentified flying object with the help of tech salesman Angel Torres and documentarian Antlers Holst.”

From my Letterboxd notes:

I loved the big-screen spectacle of this. And, as with his first two films, Peele is wryly commenting on (and, at times lamenting) cultural sins that have gone unacknowledged and unresolved.

It’s hard to cook up, at this point, a fresh take on UFOs for a summer blockbuster, and I applaud Peele for serving something clever and surprising. I also applaud his cast: As the central horse trainer whose ranch is terrorized by a mystery, Daniel Kaluuya dials everything down where most actors would have cranked things up. He’s so, so good at this. Keke Palmer is funny, spirited, and frantic as his sister. Steven Yeun is strange as a trauma survivor and showman in an adjacent storyline (which provides the true horror of the film) that helps us interpret what’s going on in the main narrative. And, well, what a joy to see Michael Wincott in a significant big screen role again as something other than a sneering villain!

But if I were at the writing table, I’d have recommended they leave the title… in the title. It’s spoken several times in the film with diminishing comic returns.

Writer and director: James Gray

Synopsis by Letterboxd: “A deeply personal coming-of-age story about the strength of family and the generational pursuit of the American Dream.”

From my Letterboxd notes:

Jeremy Strong in the last act of Armageddon Time looks and moves so much like my father that I may never recover. Same jacket, cap, glasses, hair, expressions. Uncanny. If his voice had been anywhere close to my dad’s, I’d have had to leave.

My father never beat me. Never discouraged my desire to make art. Never told me to get a real job. Never shouted at me. Gave everything so I could go to a good school and practice creativity. I am so grateful.

But then my family and community rejoiced when Reagan won. “A good Christian man” who would do something about crime and drugs. The best thing about the rich getting richer was that the success would trickle down to the poor! Well… we know how that turned out. (I wouldn’t wake up to the ugly truth about those old reliable GOP bullshit tactics about wealth, whiteness, “law and order,” and posturing as “pro-life” for many years.) So… we had our problems. What’s more — I never had more than one black classmate at my evangelical Christian private school, and remained ignorant of and uncomfortably disinterested in all questions about race—or poverty, for that matter—until college.

So, this film—although it feels frustratingly guarded and muted, like every aspect from the camera to the performances are being held back, and although its white-guilt penance is heavy-handed—is nevertheless going to stick with me as a film in which I saw a life very like my own, meaningfully similar, meaningfully different. I see so many ways in which my community’s privilege and fear kept me sheltered from necessary truths of the world, so many ways in which I was spared hardship and blessed with priceless gifts.

Directors: Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Gustafson

Writers: Guillermo Del Toro and Patrick McHale

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “During the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy, a wooden boy brought magically to life struggles to live up to his father’s expectations.”

From my Letterboxd notes:

Well… it’s truth in advertising:

Gorgeous puppetry and extravagant sets.

Darker, stranger, and braver storytelling than Disney animation has ever dared (and thus truer in spirit to “the old tales” like Collodi’s 1883 original).

And, above all, it’s Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio — a re-imagining of Collodi’s strange story in a way that allows the enfant terrible of big-screen fantasy to preach another conflicted and ultimately confusing Del Toro Gospel — Christianity-reviling and yet Christ-haunted at the same time — even as he indulges increasingly familiar and derivative-of-themselves Del Toro fantasies.

For me, the most interesting thing about Del Toro’s films is that, despite their childish attachment to moments of cathartic violence against villains, and their increasingly predictable attacks on Christianity as merely a system for exploiting people’s hopes and keeping them in line… the philosophy these films illustrate feels at war with itself, incongruous with the “deeper magic” of mythology to suggest something timeless and eternal.

There is a lot of energy expended here on emphasizing the connection between the church and fascism. What complicates that in a fascinating way is how the figure of Jesus — so surprisingly prominent here — manifests as a “puppet,” a character carved from wood, fitted together with puppetry joints, and lifted up for people to marvel at in ways that allow evil men to exploit the enchanted. In a way, Jesus himself escapes the complaint. The real enemies here are manipulative and abusive institutions, not the Gospel itself. The accusations are fashioned to criticize a corrupt religious establishment rather than the Loving and Living Word of God.

But Del Toro never seems to figure out how to reconcile this. He throws the Baby Jesus out with the dirty bathwater he’s been immersed in. He has to dismiss the possibility of “eternal life” and a Loving God, reducing everything to the popular and practical gospel of just “being good” — one that doesn’t seem to work out too well in the real world.

– – –

Fortunately for audiences, there are other forces at work in Del Toro’s storytelling than his reductive philosophies. Maybe that’s why he keeps telling stories. Maybe they aren’t finished with him yet.

I can’t help but notice that Geppetto still sleeps under a sign of the cross, and it’s still there at the end of the film, like something Del Toro can’t bring himself to give up.

Director: Park Chan-wook

Writers: Jeong Seo-kyeong and Park Chan-wook

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “Hae-Joon, a seasoned detective, investigates the suspicious death of a man on a mountaintop. Soon, he begins to suspect Seo-rae, the deceased’s wife, while being unsettled by his attraction to her.”

From my Letterboxd notes:

On how much Hitch could Park Chan-Wook riff
if Park Chan-Wook could riff on Hitch?
Park Chan-Wook would riff on all the Hitch he could
if Park Chan-Wook could riff on Hitch!

And, in fact, he has! Decision to Leave finds Park Chan-Wook riffing on so much Hitchcock that it seems like the old master deserves to have his name in the credits!

I mean… my head was spinning so violently with how many reversals of the famous Stewart/Novak dynamics Park wove into this long (over-long?), complicated (over-complicated?) tapestry that I got dizzier than Jimmy Stewart standing on a stepladder.

    • Cops and detectives chasing crooks across rooftops.
    • A rocky precipice above violent, smashing waves.
    • The shots of Detective Hae-jun driving slowly behind his suspect and even commenting on how he enjoys trailing a mark.
    • A vivid bouquet.
    • A shot with the tormented cop/femme fatale against a mirror image emphasizing the ways in which they are “doubled.”
    • The “vertigo” shot (the dolly zoom).
    • The low-angle shots of Park Hae-il as the discombobulated detective, often looking down from high places.
    • And even a literal whirlpool that would’ve made Hitchcock wish he’d thought of that as another variation of the spirals that are the engines of Vertigo.

I’m both delighted by the giddy extravagance of these relentless callbacks/tributes/spoofs of Vertigo and frustrated with how they constantly disrupt my suspension of disbelief. I’ve never really been on Park Chan-Wook’s wavelength — I’m sure it’s not him, it’s me — and until now Stoker was the only film of his I’ve really enjoyed (I have some admiration for aspects of Thirst, but I’ve always disliked Oldboy). But I enjoyed this as much as Bong’s Parasite, and I’m glad it’s in the running for the Oscars’ International Feature award. I just can’t tell how much of my enjoyment is about my love for Vertigo and how much I care about this film apart from that clever re-imagining.

Director: Joachim Trier

Writers: Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “Chronicles four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is.”

From my Letterboxd notes:

More than any other movie I can think of right off the top of my head, this is a movie that will quickly divide audiences into moviegoers who judge a complicated character and moviegoers who are curious about and capable of empathizing with a complicated character.

Julie is a character whose decisions hurt people all around her, behavior I was taught to condemn. But Trier’s film draws us into such intimacy with Julie that eventually it becomes possible to see just how much the world she’s in has been harming her, starving her, depriving her of being seen and known (especially by herself). The fact that she ends up harming most another complicated, imperfect human — who, I believe, loves her and knows her better than most — is a shame. But people who are neglected and disrespected and made to feel unvalued from childhood run on deeply fractured software, and loving them as they find their way through the wreckage of their hearts and minds is costly. I’ve seen it happen in so many relationships. I’ve been in those relationships. I’ve been impatient with and dismissive of people like Julie. And, frankly, I know that anyone who dares to love me is in for some rather disappointing revelations — so there are moments when I recognize my own most-alarming behaviors in Julie.

The trailer made me think that this was the kind of movie that makes me furious and I end up wishing I hadn’t seen. There is nothing more aggravating for me than a story that takes infidelity lightly and that champions the libido as faultless, as the guiding moral compass, as an appetite that must always be prioritized. But that is not at all what this movie is. It’s one of the most thoughtful movies about human nature — and one of the most thoughtful about a woman — that I’ve seen since the peak of Kieslowski.

Renate Reinsve is extraordinary and should be alongside Olivia Colman as the [2022] Oscar front-runner. But everybody who sees this is talking about her. We should also be talking about Anders Danielsen Lie, whose performance is every bit as three-dimensional; he really moved me. With this and Bergman Island, he had quite a 2021.

And, in a year of enigmatic closing moments, this rivals 2022’s The Green Knight for the most provocative and surprising.

[Note: Most critics counted this as a 2021 release. Seattle didn’t have it onscreen until long into the next year, so for me it’s a 2022 release.]

Director: Edward Berger

Writers: Edward Berger, Ian Stokell, and Lesley Paterson

Based on All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “Paul Baumer and his friends Albert and Muller, egged on by romantic dreams of heroism, voluntarily enlist in the German army. Full of excitement and patriotic fervour, the boys enthusiastically march into a war they believe in. But once on the Western Front, they discover the soul-destroying horror of World War I.”

Here’s my full review at Looking Closer.

Writer and director: Todd Field

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “The film, set in the international world of classical music, centers on Lydia Tár, widely considered one of the greatest living composer/conductors and first-ever female chief conductor of a major German orchestra.”

Here’s my first-impressions review at Looking Closer. And here are my second-viewing follow-up thoughts at Letterboxd.

Writer and director: Terence Davies

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “Poet Siegfried Sassoon survived the horrors of fighting in the First World War and was decorated for his bravery, but became a vocal critic of the government’s continuation of the war when he returned from service. Adored by members of the aristocracy as well as stars of London’s literary and stage world, he embarked on affairs with several men as he attempted to come to terms with his homosexuality.”

From my Letterboxd notes:

Thoughts on watching Benediction:

    1. Having just finished Season One of Slow Horses and loved every minute of it, I was already sold on Jack Lowden as an action-hero spy guy. Now that I’ve seen him give one of the strongest performances of 2022 as a quiet, tender-hearted war veteran, poet, and Catholic, count me a fan. He’s fantastic here.
    2. This is the second very good film I’ve seen in which an actor plays Ivor Novello, sits at the piano, and performs “And Her Mother Came Too.” I can’t say I ever expected that.
    3. … [See Letterboxd.]
    4. This is simultaneously one of the gayest and one of the most serious-mindedly Catholic films I’ve ever seen. That’s not a complaint; I think it’s quite a meaningful achievement. And, given that the director is Terence Davies, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising.

Directors: Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman

Writer: Saul Williams

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “In the hilltops of Burundi, a group of escaped coltan miners form an anti-colonialist computer hacker collective. From their camp in an otherworldly e-waste dump, they attempt a takeover of the authoritarian regime exploiting the region’s natural resources – and its people. When an intersex runaway and an escaped coltan miner find each other through cosmic forces, their connection sparks glitches within the greater divine circuitry.”

An excerpt from my long, long Letterboxd post:

Living in the bubble of white privilege, I am woefully naive of the ways in which my hour-to-hour routines are running on engines built and fueled by unseen, anonymous, exploited workers in poverty around the world.

Watching this movie is like listening to a prophet who, overcome by a Holy Spirit, is testifying in allegory, and promising the world that the souls we have exploited, neglected, and buried are not finished with us.

– – –

Most reviewers I’m reading are describing the narrative as too cryptic to follow. Well, it’s abstract and heavily symbolic, yes. And it requires close attention. But I wasn’t terribly confused:

I followed the futuristic arc of a miner named Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse) who works in a camp of slaves that dig up the essential materials used to power the world’s internet-dependent culture. Matalusa’s brother Tekno pauses for a moment in his work to marvel at the treasure he is mining, and he is murdered. Matalusa flees the mine and runs through the looking glass into a wonderland wilderness.

There, he meets Neptune an intersex person defiant of binaries who has been persecuted for their nonbinary biology. (When we first meet Neptune, they suffer a sexual advance from a Christian pastor… because, well, of course.) Neptune is first played by Elvis “Bobo” Ngabo, and then later played by Cheryl Isheja, after they claim their identity and reject being named and controlled by others. Together, Matalusa and Neptune become an unconventional couple, a sort of Jospeh and Mary ushering a a new definition of life into the world.

They gather a community of tech experts from a Black community of poverty and technological genius. They engage in a variety of debates about whether to form an army and fight back with violence, or to take the path of artists and awaken the world to their existence, their essentiality, and their vision for a world of nuance, beauty, poetry, and music. Their collective password is Unanimous Goldmine, which seems to represent their vision of treasure in transcendent unity.

When their vision goes global, disrupting the worldwide system of oppressive hierarchies, they are identified by the hacker name “Martyr Loser King,” and the oppressive sovereign called the Authority strives to wipe them from the earth with a military strike.

This makes the punk-rock edge of George Miller’s Mad Max films look like pop music by demanding that the audience go on a fast from their diet of easy narrative formulas and violence served up as entertainment. Instead, it delves into dance, poetry, and music, telling a story of symbols that we read the way we might translate hieroglyphics, with characters bearing names as heavily symbolic as Memory, Psychology, and Innocent.

At times, conversations become rather cumbersome, having been obviously crafted to deliver sermons and lectures. Still, those lectures are compelling, ablaze with righteous anger, and yet calling for a refusal to answer violence with violence. These revolutionaries are daring to insist on a moral integrity that the rest of the world does not understand and will probably go on punishing.

Director: Alice Diop

Writers: Alice Diop, Amrita David, and Marie NDiaye

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “A novelist attends the trial of a woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter by abandoning her to the rising tide on a beach in northern France. But as the trial continues, her own family history, doubts, and fears about motherhood are steadily dislodged as the life story of the accused is gradually revealed.”

An excerpt from my Letterboxd notes:

[This is one] of two films I saw this year in which the Mona Lisa makes a surprising experience early in the film, quietly preparing us for living manifestation in close-up later in the film. I won’t say this one is “better,” as they’re in very different genres with very different priorities, and both films deliver in so many satisfying ways. But where the other film’s Giaconda is a moment of smug satisfaction, the one we see here is profoundly disorienting, a moment that will haunt me.

– – –

The power of Diop’s camera is not in how it moves, or the light it captures (although the actresses here are captured in radiance), but in what she leaves out of the frame until we’re ready to learn a little more about the complexity of this courtroom drama. That effortless control of subtle surprises actually made me almost overlook that the cast — particularly Guslagie Malanga as the defendant accused of matricide — are navigating very difficult emotional terrain over very long takes.

Diop’s direction is like that of one of her mentors, Claire Denis, in how she makes close-ups of thoughtful stillness as gripping as any action movie’s vertiginous plunge. And some of her deep understanding of parent–child intimacy here reminds me of 35 Shots of Rum.

But then, I went into Saint Omer half-expecting to see Denis’ influence. What I didn’t expect that this courtroom drama would remind me even more of the constantly shapeshifting nature of Farhadi’s ethical dramas like A Separation or A Hero, the heart of the matter looking altogether different every time a new lens is introduced to us.

But the movie I thought about most, and with which this would make a brilliant double feature, is what I consider to be Michael Haneke’s greatest work: Code Unknown. Here is another portrait of Paris as a city dreaming of law and order and human flourishing in the overlaying of many different peoples and cultures. Here is another one that asks, “Are progress and harmony possible?” At times, Saint Omer plays almost like a gentle sequel, reminding us that if you draw a diverse community into a room and ask them to explore a question, you will only find more and more questions until you can hardly know what to believe anymore.

But where Code Unknown concludes in a way that leaves me shaken and fighting back cynicism, Saint Omer makes a bold move away from what almost any other filmmaker (and viewer) would wish for it’s conclusion, and attends instead to one character’s deepening wisdom. I was moved by hope.

Writer and director: Laura Wandel

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “When Nora witnesses Abel being bullied by other kids, she rushes to protect him by warning their father. But Abel forces her to remain silent. Caught in a conflict of loyalty, Nora will ultimately try to find her place, torn between children’s and adult’s worlds.”

From my Letterboxd post:

Once upon a time, this movie would have torn me to pieces and then moved me to tears and gratitude with its conclusion.

It says something about how the world has changed, and how bullying has become the out-in-the-open strategy for so many people in power, that the movie, as I watch it today, tears me to pieces and then leaves me struggling to decide whether or not I can actually suspend my disbelief enough to accept its final grace note. Have I become too cynical? Have my hopes been smashed to such ruins that the final scene here feels too much like wishful thinking?

I’ll give it some time and watch it again, if I can muster the courage. This film has a short running time, but it is punishing in its unflinching portrayal of playground bullying and the cruelty of children. Having witnessed and experienced a lot of bullying in childhood, I have difficulty recovering from movies about it, just as I have difficulty with the daily news accounts of politicians belittling and persecuting the vulnerable, the poor, and the outsider.

Having said that, the cast — both the young actors and the adults — create a world that’s almost too convincing. The siblings in the spotlight and the adults towering over them — misunderstanding them, failing them, and only occasionally offering them meaningful help — will remain alive in my imagination for a long time to come. The stark cinema realism (which I suspect was influenced by the Dardenne brothers’ handheld cameras, natural light, high tension, and long and charged silences), and the fiercely unsentimental depiction of how children will behave when adults aren’t looking, should serve to activate our empathy.

And maybe, just maybe, this path of such deep suffering brings us to a moment of clarifying wisdom. I’m not sure.

I want to believe all of it.

Writer and director: Céline Sciamma

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “Eight-year-old Nelly has just lost her beloved grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods where her mother used to play and where she built the treehouse Nelly has heard so much about. One day her mother suddenly leaves. That is when Nelly meets a girl of her own age in the woods, building a treehouse.”

Here’s my review at Looking Closer.

Writer and director: Charlotte Wells

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “Sophie reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father twenty years earlier. Memories real and imagined fill the gaps between miniDV footage as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t.”

I haven’t found the right time yet to compose my thoughts about this one. I need to see it again. Suffice it to say that I found every scene absorbing, the camera constantly surprising, all that is unsaid as affecting as anything that is, and the karaoke scene as memorable as any such performance since Lost in Translation. And then the last few minutes of it may be my favorite finale to a film all year. For a proper review, here’s Josh Larsen at Larsen on Film.

Writer and director: David Cronenberg

Synopsis via Letterboxd: “As the human species adapts to a synthetic environment, the body undergoes new transformations and mutations. With his partner Caprice, celebrity performance artist Saul Tenser publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances. Timlin, an investigator from the National Organ Registry, obsessively tracks their movements, which is when a mysterious group is revealed. Their mission — to use Saul’s notoriety to shed light on the next phase of human evolution.”

Here’s my review at Looking Closer.